Thursday, November 10, 2011

Creating Great Characters For Your Novels

NaBloPoMo Post #10

What does it take to create a character that is memorable and interesting, someone a reader wants to follow and know more about?

A character might already live in your head. Maybe you know her personality. Maybe you know about something in her past that will help define her personality. Or you might begin your novel not knowing anything about your characters and create them from scratch.
Whatever the case, it is important to know at least the basics of your main characters before you begin writing. That is not to say that you cannot learn about them as you go. No matter how well you think you know your characters, you will learn more about them as you’re writing. Chances are, they will even surprise you a few times.

When I say you should know the basics, I mean knowing at least the following:

Physical description
Where they live
Some background information, such as what their family is like, what is their cultural background, etc..
What are some of their believes
Some of their flaws; this is particularly important to make a character believable. Everybody has flaws. Those flaws will influence the character’s actions in some way, present some kind of a problem that needs to be overcome maybe.

There are tools out there for writers that help with character (and world) building. Here are a few you might find useful.

Many writers, however, use a simple Excel spreadsheet, or even a Word document, to keep track of character traits and background info. Whichever way you chose to do it, think of this exercise as a fun way to get to know your characters better, make them interesting. Another exercise you might consider is character interviews. You can come up with a number of questions and makes them as detailed as you want. Then really get into the character’s head by answering them.

If you need some help coming up with a character questionnaire or interview questions, the following may help you get started.

Katrina Stonoff’s blog offers a 100 character questions list.

Go talk to your characters and have fun. Happy Writing!


  1. I use excel spreadsheets, and I am always adding to them as the story progresses. :)

  2. I like that your character sheet includes "why," because that, to me, is what makes characters come alive.

    I don't worry much with spreadsheets of facts about characters. Instead I figure out what they want and need and WHY. I also figure out what their relationships are with other characters and why and what issues they have with them that need to be resolved. My characters come alive as I figure out their histories that way.


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